Cory Bailey (Trading Card DB)

Cory Bailey

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

Cory Bailey (Trading Card DB)Right-handed pitcher Cory Bailey was a 15th-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 1991 at the age of 20. His lengthy career ran through 2008 and featured stints in both the American League and National League, as well as Japan’s Central League, Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League, and Venezuela’s winter league.

In the US major leagues, Bailey enjoyed parts of eight seasons: 1993-98 and 2001-02. He appeared in 172 games – all in relief. He finished with a career 3.96 earned run average and a record of 9-10.

Philip Cory Bailey was born on January 24, 1971, in Herrin, a small city in southern Illinois that is part of the Marion-Herrin Micropolitan Area. Marion itself is named after Revolutionary War hero Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion. It is today home to the large medium-security and former “supermax” prison, the United States Penitentiary, Marion.1

His parents were Jerry and Marlene (née Wharry) Bailey. Jerry worked as a coal miner and Marlene was a schoolteacher who worked in special education. Cory had an older sister, Michelle, and a younger brother, Chad.

In later years Marion named a street after him. The first high school he attended – Crab Orchard High School – is currently located at 19189 Cory Bailey Street.2

Asked about those who have been influential in his life, he said, “There have been several. Of course, my father and my mother. They always supported me. They said, ‘You can be whatever you want to be, if you try hard enough.’ When you’re young, you’re asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ ‘A major-league baseball player.’ You say that. Even in high school, you had your doubters. But if you’re good, if you’re 100% behind whatever you do, you can accomplish anything. Usually, you know when your talent is at your limit.”

Cory played baseball, football, and basketball in high school for the Crab Orchard Trojans. As a senior he attended Marion High School and played for the Wildcats. “I was from a small school, and I guess my last year, I just wanted to see if I was any good or not.”

After graduating from Marion High in 1989, Bailey attended Southeastern Illinois Junior College in Harrisburg, located just about 22 miles due east of Marion. Infielder Bill Madlock and righty pitcher Jeff Keener had both previously gone to the two-year community college. An All-Region pitcher, Bailey graduated from the college in 1991, receiving an Associate in Science degree. With regard to further schooling, he remarked, “Once I got drafted … that was pretty much it.”

The Red Sox made Bailey their 15th round selection in the June 1991 draft. Their first-round selection that year was Aaron Sele. Bailey signed early in the month with Red Sox scout Don Lenhardt.

Listed as an even six feet tall and 195 pounds, Bailey was first assigned to the Elmira Pioneers in the short-season Class A New York-Penn League. He worked exclusively in relief, as he did throughout his career until playing in Taiwan in 2004. He appeared in 28 games for Elmira, closing 25 of them, with an impressive 54 strikeouts in 39 innings and just 12 walks. He recorded a 1.85 earned run average. He also pitched two innings in one Gulf Coast League game.

Bailey’s 1992 season was spent in Advanced-A ball with the Lynchburg Red Sox. He worked in a team-high 49 games, closing 43 and earning 23 saves. He struck out 87, walked 30, and had a 5-7 won-lost record with an ERA of 2.44. Both Bailey and fellow reliever Joe Caruso were promoted to Triple A for 1993. He helped solidify his elevation by combining on a no-hitter with Frank Viola (seven innings) in an April 2 spring training game in Clearwater, Florida. Boston beat the Phillies, 10-0, with Bailey throwing the final two innings.

Manager Buddy Bailey (no relation) had been his skipper in Lynchburg and was also manager for the triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox in 1993. Cory Bailey shone again in the regular season, with 20 saves in 52 appearances (breaking the Pawtucket team record of 18) and a 2.88 ERA (the team’s ERA was 4.43). He struck out 59 and walked 31. At one point in June he had a 17 2/3 innings scoreless streak. His won-lost record was 4-5 for a team that finished 60-82.

Bailey (the reliever) was a September callup to the majors, joining manager Butch Hobson and pitching coach Rich Gale in Boston. Closer Jeff Russell had hurt his ankle in August, which gave Bailey more opportunity. His first big-league game was on September 1 at Fenway Park against the visiting Texas Rangers. The Rangers had just scored two runs off Red Sox reliever Paul Quantrill and taken a 9-7 lead in the top of the 12th. The bases were loaded with one out. Bailey threw four pitches and was rewarded when left fielder Juan González lined to Red Sox shortstop John Valentin for an unassisted double play. Boston failed to score, but Bailey had begun his major-league career by facing one batter and recording two outs.

He worked in 11 games before season’s end, with one decision, a loss to Detroit on September 29. His ERA of 3.45 was not only marginally better than the team’s 3.77, it earned a 137 ERA+. On the downside he issued 12 walks in just 15 2/3 innings. The Red Sox finished fifth in the seven-team AL East. Boston Globe sportswriter Nick Cafardo declared, “Cory Bailey has more than shown he’s a major league reliever.”3

Bailey was signed by Boston to a one-year deal for 1994. In his first 173 pro innings, he recorded 191 strikeouts. One evaluation said, “He isn’t a hard thrower (85 mph), but he has a nasty cut fastball that hitters usually think is a slider.”4 Another report a couple of weeks later listed his best pitch as a four-seam fastball that dropped. “I don’t know how I do it,” he said, “People think it’s a slider, but it’s not.”5

He also had a way of attracting some attention. “Bailey’s trademark was to throw his first warmup pitch to the backstop. Sometimes, his first two warmups would sail high and wide. ‘It was something I started at Elmira. The fans got a kick out of it, and it opened the eyes of the hitters – let them think I’m a little wild, maybe.’”6 It gave some batters pause.

Looking toward 1994, PawSox pitching coach Rick Wise had worked with Bailey in the Arizona Fall League. Most of his appearances in the pros had been for one inning only, but Wise was reportedly trying to stretch Bailey out to serve better as a middle reliever. However, it was said to be costing some command.7 Having been a starter in college, Bailey could handle multiple innings if he could maintain full command.

Boston had a number of other right-handed relievers though; Bailey pitched for Boston just briefly in 1994, being called up in June after Greg Harris was released. At that point he already had 12 saves and a 2.01 ERA for the PawSox. He appeared in five games from June 28 to July 9. He pitched well in the first three, but on July 6 against the Angels, he was hammered for two homers and five runs, blowing a lead and taking the loss. He finished the year with the PawSox, working 53 games in all, closing 43 and saving 19. His ERA was 3.23 and he was 4-3.

The strike that truncated the 1994 big-league season in mid-August lingered into 1995, delaying the start of the season until late April. As teams were ramping up in belated spring training, the Red Sox traded third baseman Scott Cooper, Bailey, and a player to be named later to the St. Louis Cardinals for left-handed swingman Rhéal Cormier and right fielder Mark Whiten. Marion is about 120 miles from St. Louis, and Bailey had grown up as a Cardinals fan. He said, “It’s everybody’s dream to play for the Cardinals. This is pretty nice.”8

Bailey spent most of 1995 in Triple A once again, working in 55 games and finishing 40 for the Louisville Redbirds in the American Association. He posted a 5-3 record and a career-high 25 saves, despite an elevated 4.55 ERA. At the very end of the season, he appeared in three games for St. Louis – two of them scoreless, but one that bumped his ERA up to 7.36.9

In 1996 Bailey had a strong spring, opened the season with the Cardinals, and spent much of the year in the majors. He booked his first big-league win on April 5 in Atlanta. He entered a 4-4 game in the bottom of the 11th and secured the final out. He loaded the bases in the 12th, escaped the jam, and then tossed a 1-2-3 13th. Ozzie Smith pinch-hit for him in the top of the 14th, singling to load the bases. Ron Gant drew a walk to put the Cardinals ahead and Dennis Eckersley closed the game, earning his second save of the young season.

Under manager Tony La Russa, the bullpen duties were split relatively evenly among a number of pitchers, before Eckersley came in as closer. Bailey threw 57 innings in 51 games, with an earned run average of exactly 3.00 and a won-lost record of 5-2. He’d been up and down from Louisville throughout the season, working in 22 games for the Redbirds as well (and actually performing much more poorly for Louisville, with a 5.82 ERA).

Bailey said that teammate Eckersley gave him some good advice that season about working out of the bullpen. “He said you don’t look at one game – you look at 10 games. You try to be successful eight out of 10 times.”

The Cardinals finished first in the NL Central, but Bailey did not appear in any of the Redbirds’ 10 postseason games. La Russa had noted, “Cory Bailey has pitched well enough to be on the postseason roster and he’s not on it. That’s when you know you’ve got a good club. We’ve got more good players than positions.”10 The Cardinals swept the best-of-five Division Series from the Padres, then battled to the full seven games in the NLCS before losing to Atlanta.

St. Louis beat writer Rick Hummel summarized Bailey’s 1996 season as follows: “Yo-yoed up and down three times, Bailey was impressive most of the time as a middle-inning reliever. He doesn’t have quite the stuff to be a good late man, but he can pitch several days in a row.”11 In mid-December Bailey was traded by the Cardinals to the Texas Rangers for right-handed minor-league reliever David Chavarria. The team was out of options; Bailey had been designated for assignment, and they got what they could for him.12

Bailey never pitched for the Rangers but did work in seven September 1997 games for the San Francisco Giants. He’d spent the first half of the season with the Rangers’ triple-A club in Oklahoma City and appeared in 42 games (going 3-4 with 15 saves and a 3.40 ERA) before being traded on July 29 to the Giants for left-handed reliever Chad Hartvigson, another pitcher who never made the majors. Bailey finished the season with the triple-A Phoenix Firebirds, for whom he was 4-0 (1.56) in 13 appearances. He also had three saves. He earned PCL Pitcher of the Week honors near the end of August.

The Giants called him up in September. He posted a disappointing 8.38 ERA in the seven appearances, yielding 15 hits in just 9 2/3 innings. He lost his final outing to finish with an 0-1 record. However, that game on September 28 – the season finale – featured Bailey’s one big-league base hit. San Francisco and the visiting San Diego Padres were tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth, and manager Dusty Baker let Bailey hit for himself. Mark Lewis was on first base, with two outs and Trevor Hoffman was working in relief for the Padres. On a 1-1 count Bailey, batting right-handed, grounded a single between first and second, moving Lewis into scoring position.13 The next batter struck out. Unfortunately, Bailey surrendered a three-run homer to Derrek Lee in the top of the 11th.  

Bailey’s next two years were largely in Triple A as well. In 1998, he had a very successful season with the Fresno Grizzlies: 7-2 with 10 saves and a 2.47 ERA in 57 games, closing 25. Once again San Francisco called him up in September. He appeared in five games but only for a total of 3 1/3 innings, giving up just one run in the first of the five outings.

Bailey’s entire 1999 season was with Fresno. He was 2-1 (3.30), with 18 saves in 43 games. In early October he was granted free agency; he signed a minor-league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates in January 2000. He pitched for the Nashville Sounds in the fourth of five consecutive years in the Pacific Coast League, albeit with three different organizations. He worked in 55 games, closing 41 of them, posting a 2-4 record with 12 saves and a 3.47 ERA.

A free agent once more, Bailey caught the attention of the Kansas City Royals while pitching in winter ball with the Culiacán Tomateros (Tomato Growers) in the Mexican Pacific League. He said, “I’m just looking for a home. I’m hoping whether it’s out of camp or down the line, to help the club win this season.”14

Kansas City made him a non-roster invitee, but he proved himself and spent the next two years in the Royals’ system. In both 2001 and 2002, he was 1-0 in short stints for the Triple-A Omaha Royals but spent most of those two seasons with Kansas City. In 2001 he joined Kansas City in late April and worked in a career-high 53 major-league games. Tony Muser’s team finished last in the AL Central, but Bailey was a solid contributor in the pen, with a 3.48 ERA that was much better than the staff’s overall 4.87. He worked primarily in middle relief, although he also finished 13 games. Bailey earned one early win and 12 holds, and was charged with one loss. One late-season game story noted, “Cory Bailey is proving to be a reliever the Kansas City Royals can count on in tough situations.”15

In 2002 there were three games of particular note for Bailey. His one career save in the majors came on April 10 as he struck out three of the four Red Sox batters he faced and induced a groundout from the other.16 On May 26 he pitched a scoreless top of the ninth in a game the visiting Rangers were winning, 5-4, and then benefited from a game-tying single by teammate Mike Sweeney in the bottom of the inning followed by a two-run homer by Joe Randa. Manager Tony Peña inserted him in the second game of the day’s doubleheader as well. Bailey entered the game in the sixth inning with the Royals leading 7-6. Álex Rodríguez of the Rangers singled to tie the game, 7-7, but Bailey’s teammate Carlos Beltrán hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning, giving the Royals a 9-7 lead that held up as Jason Grimsley took over on the mound. Bailey had thus won two games in one day – both halves of the doubleheader. As the Associated Press noted, in one day he had “doubled his victory total of the previous five years.”17

In 37 games for Kansas City, Bailey was 3-4 (4.11 ERA), but with six blown wins or save opportunities. In mid-July, he was designated for assignment, ending his career in MLB. Overall he was 9-10: 4-7 in the AL and 5-3 in the NL, with similar ERAs of 3.98 and 3.91. Pitching in a hitters’ era, his career ERA of 3.96 translated to a well-above-average 118 ERA+.

As a batter in the big leagues, Bailey had only five plate appearances and two official at-bats. He sacrificed his first time up, walked twice – and the single off Hoffman left him with a career .500 batting average and .750 on-base average.

As a fielder in the majors, he committed just one error in 42 chances– an inconsequential one during a 10-5 win for the Royals in 2001.

Though his time at the top level was over, at age 31, there was a lot more baseball in Bailey’s future. Over the remainder of the 2002 season, he worked in 18 games for Omaha, with nine saves, a 1-0 record and a 1.83 ERA.

Bailey’s overseas years began in 2003 with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Central League. He pitched in 30 games for the Tokyo-based team, which finished tied for third place. He worked primarily in middle relief, closing just five games, with a record of 1-0 and an ERA of 4.79.

For the first time in his professional career, Bailey became a starting pitcher in 2004. Aged 33, he worked in the Chinese Professional Baseball League for the La New Bears of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The Bears finished last in the six-team league. Bailey was 11-14; his 11 wins were five more than the next-highest pitcher. He appeared in 33 games, 29 of them starts, and his 2.95 ERA was significantly better than the staff’s 3.72. He struck out 127 but walked 92, both career highs reflecting the 210 2/3 innings he pitched. It was the first time he had worked more than 100 innings in his 14 years as a professional.

Bailey returned to La New for 2005 but appeared in just 10 games, all starts. He was a disappointing 3-6 with a 4.31 ERA. An injury – caused by a line drive that struck him in the right elbow – ended his season. “Straight off the elbow,” Bailey recalled. “I thought it was broke when it first happened, but then I started moving it and I thought, ‘You know what? I can throw.’ I had to give five innings for a win. I pitched two more innings before it swelled up. But the next day I couldn’t move my elbow.”

The team treated him well. “They were pretty good. I played there and they just brought somebody else in. It was no big deal. I was there for another couple of months, I believe.” But the Bears obviously had to bring in a replacement, and as Bailey explained, “once you get taken off the main roster, they cannot put you back on. It’s not like it is in the States.”

Bailey played some independent ball in 2006, pitching in 16 games (two starts) for the Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks. He was 0-2, with an ERA of 3.64 in just 29 2/3 innings.

In the winter of 2006-07 he pitched in Venezuela for the Tigres de Aragua (3-3, 2.24 in 17 games, 12 of them starts). Aragua became league champion, and thus Bailey had the opportunity to pitch in the 2007 Caribbean Series. He appeared briefly for Venezuela in two games, without either a win or loss.

In December 2006 the Chicago Cubs signed the veteran to a contract. He put in a full season for the triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2007, working 91 1/3 innings in 44 games, starting seven of them while finishing 18. His record was 5-3, with five saves and an ERA of 2.86.

Bailey pitched another season of Venezuelan winter ball with Aragua. He was 2-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 14 games, all starts.

At age 37 it was back to Taiwan for one final season pitching in professional baseball for the Taipei-based team named dMedia T-Rex in 2008. At 9-7, he was the winningest pitcher on the staff and his 3.07 ERA was significantly better than the team’s 4.85. The team finished fifth in the six-team CPBL.

Bailey contemplated his post-playing life. He had married and had a son, Martin Cory Bailey, born in 2004. “I had an opportunity to be a pitching coach, but I didn’t want to – with all the traveling. I ended up pitching professionally about 18 years, through the minor leagues and everything.” Tired of the travel, and with a son growing up, Bailey wanted to spend more time at home.

Bailey returned to Marion and opened a baseball facility with a friend from college, Bobby Simpson. Running a business with a friend was stressful enough that they parted ways. There had been a divorce as well. “And some of that’s probably baseball. That’s part of it I didn’t enjoy, being apart. But we have a good relationship.”

In 2012 he began working for another friend named Todd Poe, who owned a batting facility called Future Swings in Marion. He has been offering pitching lessons ever since.

Bailey took a position as a high school coach for five years at Crab Orchard High School, from 2018 into 2023, retiring after his son graduated. “He [Martin] got a job with the state. He’s a prison guard. It’s a state job. Good benefits. Good retirement.”

As for himself, Bailey commented, “I do lessons maybe four or five times a week. That’s about it. I’m just enjoying the … I say later years, but I’m 53. I’m just enjoying that, watching my son get his job, basically living through him now. Watching him succeed.” He works with a variety of folks, starting with children “from age six all the way up. We have some college kids that will sometimes come in a bit in the summertime and get a tune-up every now and then.”

Last revised: March 24, 2024



Thanks to Cory Bailey for his interview with the author on January 30, 2024. Unless otherwise indicated, all direct quotations come from this interview.

This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Rick Zucker and fact-checked by Jeff Findley.



1 Some of the prisoners of note at Marion over the years include a number of members of Al-Qaeda, Gambino Crime Family boss John Gotti, Viktor Bout (Russian arms dealer traded for US women’s basketball player Brittney Griner), and baseball player Pete Rose, imprisoned for five months (1990-91) for tax evasion.

2 Asked about having a street named after him, Bailey said, “I’m just a nobody, but it made me feel good and it helped me very much.”

3 Nick Cafardo, “It may be time to change some of the Sox,” Boston Globe, October 4, 1993: 42.

4 Peter Gammons, “Fresh Faces,” Boston Globe, February 14, 1994: 53.

5 Seth Livingston, “Bailey makes his pitch to stay with Red Sox as reliever,” Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Massachusetts), February 28, 1994: 21.

6 Livingston, “Bailey makes his pitch to stay with Red Sox as reliever.”

7 Nick Cafardo, “Nixon’s big obstacle: back woes,” Boston Globe, June 19, 1994: 57.

8 Rick Hummel, “After playing musical chairs, Jocketty focused on fine-tuning,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 10, 1995: 5C. Cooper himself was a St. Louis native, reportedly one of the reasons the Cardinals found him of interest.

9 Unfortunate circumstances saw Bailey charged with one run due to an intentional walk he’d been asked to give, a bases-loaded four pitch walk, a single that drove in two, and a home run given up by the pitcher who followed him.

10 Rick Hummel, “Gant adds numbers in 2-1 victory over Reds,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 29, 1996: 1F.

11 Rick Hummel, “Making their marks,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 29, 1996: 1C.

12 Another Cardinals beat writer, Mike Eisenbath, observed, “Bailey gave the Cardinals a durable, steady arm out of the bullpen last season. Unfortunately for him, there’s not much unique about a righthanded middle reliever who doesn’t throw all that hard.” Mike Eisenbath, “With options exhausted, Cards’ Bailey dealt to Texas,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 17, 1996: 4C.

13 He has the baseball. Dusty Baker signed it, and the team mounted it on a plaque for him.

14 Associated Press, “Bailey impresses at Royals’ camp,” Salina (Kansas) Journal, March 16, 2001: 22.

15 Associated Press, “Royals hold on to defeat the Tigers,” Iola (Kansas) Register, September 28, 2001: 13.

16 He’d been in line for a save the season before and was just one out away when two of his pitches were deemed too close to Seattle batter Ichiro Suzuki and he was ejected by umpire Jim Joyce. Bailey said he was not trying to hit Ichiro, but Joyce differed. Manager Muser was tossed, too. Doug Tucker, “Save eludes Bailey in Royals’ 6-3 win,” Salina Journal, July 20, 2001: 11.

17 Associated Press, “Bailey, Royals Win Two,” Washington Post, May 27, 2002: D9.

Full Name

Philip Cory Bailey


January 24, 1971 at Herrin, IL (USA)

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